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What are the different kinds of child custody? - Avvo

When courts decide who will be granted custody of a child, there are several different kinds of child custody they can award. You can get an idea of what to expect by learning about the five main types of child custody.

Sole legal custody

Sole legal custody means the court gives one parent full authority to make decisions for their children. These decisions can include everything in the child’s life, from healthcare, to education, to everyday activities.

Courts will often lean towards this type of custody if there’s a significant chance of back-and-forth arguments between the two parents. Also, if one parent is completely absent, it's necessary for the remaining parent to have the ability to make major decisions.

Joint legal custody

Unlike sole legal custody, joint legal custody grants both parents the authority to make major decisions on behalf of their children. This kind of agreement generally requires parents to stay in constant communication in order to make decisions together.

Though joint legal custody can be stressful for two parents to manage, it can also provide significant benefits. If both parents can maintain healthy communication channels, joint legal custody will allow children to witness their parents cooperating on their care.

Sole physical custody

A child custody case that results in sole physical custody means that the children live with one parent or caregiver. The advantage of this is that it allows children to maintain a consistent routine, sometimes even in the same place that they lived prior to their parents' separation.

Sole physical custody also doesn't necessarily mean that the other parent isn't a big part of the children's lives. In this situation, the other parent is typically granted visitation rights so they can have regular visits and maintain a relationship with their children.

Joint physical custody

Joint physical custody, otherwise known as shared custody, refers to an arrangement where the children live with both parents on a regular basis. This may mean that they live with each parent for part of a week, part of a month, or part of a year. Ultimately, both parents are responsible for the children about half of the time.

Shared custody can cause some transportation challenges, especially if the parents don't live near each other. But while this arrangement often requires constant adjustment, it gives each parent the chance to take an active role in their children's care.

Bird's nest custody

Instead of requiring the children to change locations to allow for shared custody arrangements, bird's nest custody allows the children to live in a single home year-round. The parents move in and out of the house on a regular basis to accommodate their joint custody agreement.

This tends to be one of the rarer kinds of child custody, since it can be both expensive and difficult to organize. However, families that are able to do so often find that it offers their children a consistent, uninterrupted lifestyle.

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